Global Traveler: Tell us about yourself and your career at Thai Airways.
Vasing Kittikul: In 1971 I graduated with an accounting degree from Western Australia University. I started with Thai Airways as a marketing trainee in Bangkok. My first overseas post was in Penang, Malaysia. From 1985 to 1987, I was posted in Seattle, and then spent eight years in Osaka, Japan. From there I moved back to the head office in Bangkok, where I was a member of the marketing and sales department. Now I concentrate my efforts on sales, partnership marketing, meeting and incentives and, of course, marketing and research.
I am concentrating now on the promotional efforts of Thai Airways International following difficult times we have encountered relative to post-9/11, SARS, bird flu and the tsunami. To that end, I have arranged for more than 1,200 journalists to visit and experience the region as it has returned to normalcy. The U.S. market has come back strong compared to other global markets and we are very pleased with the results.
GT: The addition of New York as Thai Airways’ second U.S. gateway (Los Angeles is the other) is exciting news. Tell us about the benefits the new route offers East Coast passengers and Star Alliance flyers.
VK: The New York route has been under development for some time. We expect and are confident in the success of the route. Our load factors are over 80 percent from New York, which is very promising for a new flight. From New York we are flying the Airbus A340-500, which is the fastest way to get to Southeast Asia from the East Coast of the United States. Flight time from New York to Bangkok averages 16 hours and 45 minutes. The aircraft has a total of 215 seats: 60 in business (Royal Silk class), 42 in premium economy and 113 in economy.
Los Angeles will also see additional service as we begin offering daily flights effective Nov. 1. This service will be a combination Boeing 747-400 (four times per week) and Airbus service (three times per week).
GT: Your New York–Bangkok route offers premium economy seating. Tell us about the service and the thought process that led to its being featured on that route, but not on flights originating in Los Angeles.
VK: The A340-500 has three classes of service: Royal Silk, our new business class; premium economy; and economy. This type of aircraft has the range and is the right size for the market needs. Premium economy makes a great deal of sense on this flight due to the length (8,711 miles) and the flying time of over 16 hours. This is our Royal Orchid service, which covers all the classes of Thai and embodies our new corporate culture, which focuses on three areas. They are “High Trust,” meaning Thai will deliver the highest service, safety and on-time performance; “World Class,” meaning Thai will offer the best competitive products; and “Thai Touch,” meaning passengers are treated to the warm and friendly service associated with Thai culture.
GT: Warm and welcoming flight attendants have always been a trademark of Thai Airways. How do you maintain those high standards during major expansions such as adding the New York route?
VK: At Thai we focus greatly on the training of our flight attendants, which is extensive. Special training has taken place for the New York flight due to the time onboard and the new aircraft. We also strive to bring the Thai culture into the product from the moment a passenger steps on board the plane. The new brand identifies with Thai culture, taking into account our Buddhist background.
GT: The Asian market offers travelers many options when it comes to air service. Which carriers does Thai Airways identify as its competitors, and how does Thai differentiate itself from them?
VK: At Thai we want to compete with all airlines, focusing on our premium service and product. In Thailand we have an open-skies policy, so there is fierce competition. We feel that our premium service and Thai culture make our product unique and enable it to rise above others in the field. Travelers have many airlines to choose from, and we feel that our dedication to the business and luxury travelers will make Thai shine above all others.
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